Peace of Mind, Best of Care
A warm breeze blows through the upstairs apartment of a two-story historic home in Fargo. Barefoot and wearing a white cotton ankle-length skirt, Emily Maggard relaxes on the couch surrounded by her beloved cats Luna and Sunshine.
“I never expected anything like this,” says the free-spirited 29-year-old. “The diagnosis of ovarian cancer absolutely floored me. Words can’t even describe it.”
An OB/GYN’s suspicion
Increasing abdominal pain in winter of 2012 prompted Emily to see a doctor at Sanford in Fargo. An imaging scan indicated she had an inflamed pancreas, but there was more. She also had extensive ovarian cysts. From past medical visits, Emily knew she had them but had been told they’d likely go away on their own.
“I’m so grateful I had an OB/GYN doctor at Sanford who thought these cysts needed closer study,” says Emily. “That’s why my cancer was found.”
Three days later Emily and her mom traveled to Sioux Falls for a consultation and surgery with Sanford’s Dr. Maria Bell, a fellowship-trained gynecologic oncologist. Dr. Bell specializes in individualized, advanced care for women with pelvic cancer, precancerous conditions and complex pelvic concerns. Internationally recognized for her expertise in robotic gynecologic surgery, she’s performed more than 1,000 of these procedures.
“My first impression of Dr. Bell was ‘What an amazing woman!’ ” says Emily. “She’s highly intelligent, straight to the point and answered every one of my questions. She has a fabulous staff that’s very caring and sensitive. You get a hug every time you see them.”
Emily underwent robotic surgery to remove her uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Her particular type of cancer could be completely addressed surgically, with no further treatment needed. Periodic follow-up with Dr. Bell is essential, including scans and lab tests.
“For me, the toughest part of this whole thing was the loss of being able to have children. I’ve gradually worked through that,” says Emily. “I know there are plenty of children in this world to adopt. I can still be a mom someday. That’s another reason I want to take really good care of my health.”
Expert care comes to Fargo
Thanks to Dr. Bell’s partnership with Sanford Women’s and Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo, today Emily no longer needs to travel to Sioux Falls for her ongoing follow-up. Dr. Bell and her team now travel to Fargo one day a month to see patients. Like Emily, many have already undergone surgery in Sioux Falls. Continued care from the doctor they trust is key.
“Gynecologic oncology is a unique specialty in that we provide the whole spectrum of patient care, from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up. No other discipline does that,” says Dr. Bell. “We develop a very close relationship with the patient.”
The only gynecologic oncologist in North Dakota, Dr. Bell brings an unmatched level of expertise. Cheryl Merry, RN, has worked with her since 2000 and sees the difference.
“If you have a gynecologic cancer, the gold standard is to receive care from a gynecologic oncologist,” says Cheryl. “We feel blessed to be able to bring this to patients in Fargo.”
With a growing number of patients, Dr. Bell expects there may come a time when she and her team travel here twice a month, possibly adding surgical capabilities at some point. “I’ve really enjoyed expanding my practice to Fargo and the northern region,” she says. “Even more important, I think the patients have been very pleased with the care we’re able to give them.”
For Emily, the presence of Dr. Bell in Fargo has been much appreciated for many reasons: convenience, saving money on travel expenses and expert knowledge locally available.
“When I go see Dr. Bell, I know this is my time for getting accurate answers to my questions. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about ovarian cancer,” says Emily. “I also know I’ll be surrounded by support, warmth and people who truly want the best for me. I can feel that.”
Strength for the journey
A cancer survivor, Emily looks to the future with hope.
“I’ve always been a positive person, and this journey has made me even more positive,” she says. “I know it’s made me stronger.”
A pendant on Emily’s necklace shows the intricate roots of a tree. The back says, “Roots of peace run deep.”
Emily embraces peace, and now she has the peace of mind in knowing she has the best possible care for surviving cancer.
Posted Date: June 2013